Derek and Tammy Condon have gone to great lengths to raise funds for Canuck Place children’s hospice.
So much so, they transformed the front of their Willoughby home to resemble a set from the Pirates of the Caribbean, in time for Halloween.
The couple has set up a pirate-themed haunted yard and garage at their home on 84th Avenue about a block east of 208th Street.
This is the third year that Pirates for Canuck Place has been assembled, and the couple chose a swashbuckling theme because it’s so kid-friendly.
“We used to do themes with another family…, at their location, and we were doing a lot more gore, cemetery, zombie-type themes, and we weren’t getting very many kids,” Derek explained. “They’d actually come look at it but they wouldn’t come down the driveway.”
Pirates, even those of the skeletal variety, seem to have mass appeal to the 10-and-under set, in Derek’s opinion.
“We decided to grow it really, really big, and I would build a ship for it,” Derek recalled.
The payoff is two-fold.
First, offering visitors some Halloween fun and most importantly, to raise funds for a cause that is very close to the Condon family and their neighbours.
“There are three local families, right in this little area, in this immediate neighbourhood, who have had to use Canuck Place,” Derek said. “That’s not a good thing. It’s usually terminal, 90 per cent of the cases, but it’s not just about the children, it’s about the families.”
Dad to an almost 18-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son, Derek said he finds it “very satisfying, being able to give back to the community. That’s why we do it. The traffic we get in and out of here is mind-blowing.”
As for the display, Derek said the No. 1 question he’s asked is, where does he store the building material for the 42-foot long, and eight-and-a-half foot wide pirate ship that’s planted in his front yard?
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The No. 2 most-asked query is, how long did it take him to build the ship?
“From the time I put the first board on the ground to the time the ship was more or less ready for kids to walk onto, it took me a month,” Derek answered, noting that he had to juggle his full time job with building his home Halloween display.
The ship, which is lit up when darkness falls, is open to the public from roughly 4 to 8 p.m. each day leading up to Halloween night, Saturday, Oct. 31.
Note that on Halloween night, no one is allowed the boat except the pirates, made up of 40 volunteers outfitted in full costume.
The boat is furbished with cannons, fog machines, motion sensors, and different types of lighting effects.
“I have effects that make fire inside [the ship], we light up the tiki torches that are on top of all the pillars, all the cannons fire out smoke…,” Derek said.
The cannons are made up of Sonotube, cardboard cylinders that are usually filled with concrete and used as deck footings.
Derek said this year’s display is “pretty similar” to last year’s, except for the size of the back of the ship.
“I never had stairs on the last boat, it was just a little step up and another little step up,” he said. “Now, the back of the boat is quite a bit bigger.”
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Last year, $6,800 was raised for Canuck Place. The goal this year is to generate more than $10,000 in donations.
One of the Vancouver Canucks’ stars stepped up for the cause, as Daniel Sedin donated a signed jersey to be raffled off. As well, Royal Bank donated two tickets to a Canucks/Edmonton Oilers game at Rogers Arena on Dec. 26.
Those who donate to Canuck Place will receive raffle tickets for a chance at these prizes as well as an Apple iPad Mini and miscellaneous gift cards for local restaurants.
For every donation made online or in person, the donor will be assigned ballots into a random draw to be made at noon on Nov. 4, 2015. Entries will be accepted till Nov. 1 at midnight.
The ballots will be allocated as follows: Donations of $10 to $50 equals three ballots, $50-plus equals five ballots, and $100-plus equals 10 ballots.
Donation envelopes will be available at the pirate ship. Alternatively, you can donate online through the Pirates for Canuck Place fundraising page on the Canuck Place website.
Book born from visit
Last year’s haunted display also inspired a children’s book.
Grace Darney, who brought her grandchildren “multiple times” to the display on numerous occasions decided to write her first book, based on their visits.
“It more or less is about them being able to come here, and coming out of their shells, and talking about what they love and the boat is part of it,” Derek said. “It’s all about parrots and the pirate ships.”
One dollar from each book sold goes to Canuck Place will go to Canuck Place.